May 18, 2009

Things I Will Do Upon My U.S. Return

-- Read glossy, aspirational magazines. My lone copy of 'Modern Bride' is not filling this void.
-- Eat gummy candy. Jelly beans, orange slices, gummy worms and gummy bears, Starbursts -- all these things are lacking here.
-- Devour cheap, tasty wine. Ain't no such thing in India. Typical glasses of wine at decent restaurants run about $10.
-- Take more road-trips. My long, slow road trip experiences here have made me pine for the relatively easy, uneventful experience of driving from, say, San Francisco to Santa Monica (a typical 7-hour trip that, in this region at least, would take about 20 hours).
-- Read the Sunday paper ... on Sunday. India is 9 hours ahead of New York and Washington., D.C., and 12 hours ahead of California -- which means that, when I wake up Sunday a.m., I'm greeted with America's Saturday evening news. And you know how crazy that makes me.
-- Enjoy the quiet. I've never been so thankful for the few quiet moments I can find (pre-7 a.m. at home, evening on the balcony in Rishikesh). From car horns to diesel motors to window unit ACs to my overhead fan (one speed: fast!) to screaming kids (who are not necessarily expected to be quiet), the noise here is just about unbearable at times.
-- Breathe fresh air. You know when you're up on a peak at Sequoia or Yosemite or Mt. Diablo, and way off in the distance, you see a bank of smog, and you think, 'Oh, how awful, such smog!' -- you know that feeling, right? Now, imagine you're at, say, San Francisco Civic Center, and to the south, a few blocks away, instead of blue sky, you see only a dirty haze and dust behind the federal building. That's what my evening commute looks like most days. Lovely, huh?
-- Eat fish. It's summer, Delhi's not near any major sources of fish and refrigeration isn't dependable -- which means, no fish curry, no fried fish, no baked fish. I've had four meals with fish since I got here, v. at least 2 per week in California.

May 11, 2009

Whitewater Rafting


That's right, you read correctly: I went whitewater rafting this weekend. For the first time ever. In India, of all places (Rishikesh, to be exact).

As most of you know, I'm not much of the outdoor adventure type of gal. But, my co-workers were all going rafting and, before leaving home, another co-worker had pointed to the Wikipedia page for Rishikesh and said, "You must go there." So I went.

I was doing OK, Saturday morning, as we got ready to embark on our adventure down the Ganges River -- until our intrepid guide, Eddy, described what to do when the raft flips (a 60-40 chance, he said) and you're suddenly part of the rapids. Gulp. I knew for sure, however, that I did not want to ride back along the winding, cliff-side road that led from Rishikesh to our starting point -- and that helped push me toward the water. I thought I'd be better to take my chances with a life jacket and a helmet on the water.

In the end, I felt safer in the raft with Eddy than I have in many other places in India (including on the roads around Rishikesh). Eddy's company, De & Ascent Expeditions, definitely values safety: A kayaker -- Ayodhi, in our case -- rides along with each rafting expedition, just to help rescue water-bound rafters. Not bad.

Rafting turned out to be one of the best things I've done in a long time. I don't have many photos from the rafting itself -- since my camera was tucked away in an airtight bag for most of the trip -- but I have some great memories. As we went through the biggest rapid, known as The Wall, I remember looking over at my co-worker, Angela. We were crouched inside the boat, in the "get down!" (meaning, water is coming!) position, just before the second wave crashed over us -- and we were smiling and laughing and the sun was shining. It was truly amazing.

I floated down the river for a bit in my life jacket, too. Also cool.

Random facts: The Beatles visited Rishikesh in 1968 -- and, according to Wiki, composed songs for the White Album there. The ashram they stayed at is reported to be closed now, but we visited another, Parmath Ashram. Very nice -- lush gardens, peaceful.

In other news -- I know I haven't posted in a while. Kerala photos and posts to come soon. Promise.